A bill extending foster care to older youth was signed last May by Governor Rick Scott. Senate Bill 1036, sponsored by Senator Nancy Detert, was renamed Nancy C. Detert Common Sense and Compassion Independent Living Act. Under the new bill, young adults in the child welfare system have the option to remain in foster care until 21 years old in order to accomplish educational goals, such as graduating high school, attending college or pursuing a technical degree. Previously, youth had to leave foster care upon turning 18. In conjunction with the Let Kids Be Kids Normalcy Bill, the Compassion Independent Living Act, strengthened the role of foster care, restructured the Road to Independence Program, and empowered caregivers to nurture youth.
Independent Living Supervisor, Hannah Rios explains, “Moving out on your own is a stressful time for young adults. Giving these youth the opportunity to prepare and remain in foster care until they are older, removes the stress of moving out and being on their own as soon as they turn 18.” She continues, “Youth can now better focus on their educational goals and remain with their support system.”All youth deserve the opportunity to be successful. With this bill, they will be given the chance.
As the local lead child welfare agency, Kids Central cares for the abused and neglected children in Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion and Sumter Counties. It is also responsible for the case management, educational coordination, and safe housing of youth who previously turned 18 while in foster care in the Independent Living program. “The care of these young adults is very complicated, since the youth are old enough to be on their own but they aren’t quite ready yet,” explained Director of Operations, Kevin Maloney. “Due to the trauma they’ve experienced and the life setbacks which have occurred, the Independent Living youth aren’t equipped to live on their own. They don’t have the support structure commonly available to most young adults who move out on their own. They only have us.”
Under the new law, the young adults in the Independent Living program have the option to remain in foster care, but for various reasons, most cannot live in a traditional foster home. Kids Central is currently seeking host families and apartment-style housing for these youth.
“The need is critical. For these youth to be successful and for them to avoid more disruptions and setbacks, we need local housing for them,” explains John Cooper, CEO. “Kids Central has released a Request for Proposals (RFP) to find suitable and safe housing options for these young adults.“
Placing young adults exiting care in semi-independent style housing will help them become independent gradually. Also, it will keep them in their communities avoiding another change in school. If you or someone you know is interested, please visit KidsCentralinc.org and click on the Request for Proposals link. If you are an individual interested in learning more about becoming a host family, contact Hannah Rios at 352-387-3551 or attend an informational session on May 21st from 6:00 pm to 8:00 at Kids Central, 2117 SW Hwy 484, Ocala or on May 22nd from 10:00am to noon at the Department of Children and Families Administration Building in Wildwood. Those interested in learning more about creating a group residential center, can attend a session on May 21st from 10am to noon at the Department of Children and Families Administration Building in Wildwood. Please RSVP by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.